Monday, December 19, 2016

YAYOI KUSAMA'S PUMPKIN AT THE HIRSHHORN




Yayoi Kusama is the most popular artist in the world.  Although I've seen and experienced her work many times over the years (here, here, and here are just a few), I still get excited each time I hear of some new Kusama experience.

When the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden unveiled Kusama's Pumpkin, 1994, a precursor to her retrospective exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Mirrors, I got to work making a spotted dress to coordinate with the 8-foot-tall sculpture.

Kusama sees pumpkins as universal symbols, and even uses them as self-portraits.  She has been quoted as saying,"Polka dots are fabulous," and this artwork combines two of her most well-known motifs: a spotted pumpkin becomes a stand-in for Kusama herself and also her vision of the world.

Kusama has suffered from hallucinations since she was a child, and her artwork is meant to show the world as she sees it.  I experienced a glimpse into her world while I was painting the spots on this dress: the repeating pattern made me slightly dizzy and nauseous at times, and when I looked away from the dress I could occasionally see a polka-dotted pattern continuing in my field of vision.  In those moments, I felt that I was connecting with Kusama's work in a deeper way, and in some part understanding what it is like to be her.

"Forget yourself.  Become one with eternity.  Become part of your environment." --Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Mirrors opens at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on February 23, 2017.

Photos by William Sealy.

Monday, December 5, 2016

WHAT I LEARNED FROM ART BASEL


I’ve just returned from Art Basel Miami Beach, an event I look forward to for months in advance, and begin planning my outfits for weeks ahead of time. I planned to create three garments inspired by works at the fairs, and photograph them on site.  After a horrific paint spill and a disappearing painting, I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do.  In fact, I didn’t even complete one and I left Miami feeling unfulfilled.  But there’s always a silver lining to failed creative endeavors – you learn something about yourself and your process along the way. 

The photo above is an example of one of these failed attempts.  After losing an entire garment to an unfortunate paint spill in my suitcase on the flight to Miami, I set out to make a new dress.  Inspired by Kenneth Noland’s Mach II from Acquavella Galleries, a work of art I saw at Art Basel during the VIP Preview day, I hand-painted this dress in my hotel room using childrens’ finger paints I bought at Walgreens.  I wasn’t very happy with the result, given my limited resources, but set out to photograph the piece nonetheless.  When I returned to the fair, I found that the piece had sold, and was already out of the country with its new owner, a private collector. Slightly devastated, I posed for this photo outside the fair.  In a strangely poignant turn of events, when the photo was uploaded to my computer, it was slightly mutilated in the process, resulting in the bewildering version above.  In a weird way, the photo seems more like a work of art to me than the dress; all I had to do was remove my control from the process.

That, in a nutshell, is what I learned this year: no matter how much you plan and prepare ahead of time, there are always external factors that are out of your control.  The finished product may be completely divergent from what you set out to create, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a success – as long as you learned something along the way.

Kenneth Noland, Mach II, 1964 via Acquavella Galleries at Art Basel Miami Beach

Photo of me by William Sealy; painting photo by me.